PSU Directories

There’s been a lot of reaction to the new PSU print directory. I was involved in the decision not to include employees in this year's directory. Here’s some of the background.

The central issue is this: The print directory is a cumbersome process to produce. Not so much for student listings, but employees. It is driven by a publication deadline, designed to get this to campus as soon as possible after the start of the semester. This deadline generates the need to have all employee listings by the end of August. That may seem easy, but it’s far more challenging and time consuming than it looks. First, not everyone is on campus during the month of August when this information is needed. Second, we are hiring a lot of people right up to, and beyond, September. As a result, the employee directory is an incomplete snapshot of who is here at the end of August. And even then, titles and roles change, so a large percentage of the employee listings are incomplete or inaccurate. When the print directories arrive, and throughout the year, we weather a storm of complaints about the directory.

Over the summer, our folks in ITS spent a lot of time developing and making improvements to the search function in myPlymouth. In fact, our web portal is one of the finest I know. myPlymouth is the envy of a lot of schools. When our folks go to industry conferences, colleagues from other schools are ravenous to hear how we do it. They waive registration fees for many of our people just so they’ll come and talk. I could not be more proud to oversee such a fine information system and the talented individuals who put it together.

Given those two factors, I advocated for a shift from print to online directories. This was presented to the President’s Cabinet last spring, at which time they responded that the print directory was still needed. To alleviate a no-win situation on the employee directory, I made the call to place the emphasis on the online directories and rolling out the new voice activated directory. And acknowledging that there are many who still need a print version, we made that available for anyone to print.

Since the directory was delivered, here’s some of the feedback we’ve received. Thanks to the many of you who delivered this feedback in tactful ways. 😉

The print version used to have titles attached to each individual. The online look up function does not include them. People would like that back.

Response: This provokes a bit of humorous history. Several years ago, the print directory had many employees listed with their official titles in the Banner system. Yet they were truncated to something like 8 characters. We had many ‘admin ass’ who were none too pleased. Thus began a laborious, annual process to get the data from Banner and go through and edit them. This added to HR’s burden and duress in August. However, because we know this is important to you, we’ll be looking for ways to get that info into the online directory.

Many people simply prefer the tactile print booklet. It’s always there, even when you log off or power down. It’s very easy grab and look up.

Response: Touche'. Which is why it is still printed. But we want your employee data to be as accurate as possible. A printed insert is available in myPlymouth. It’s only as accurate as the point in time which it was produced.

The advantage of the online version is accuracy, currency and darn near 24/7 availability. And when you leave the office, and the print version, you can access directory information from home or elsewhere.

The online version is pretty good for individual look ups. Nice improvements over the summer. But hey, can you speed it up? If you search by department, you can go get coffee before it is completed.

Response: Thanks, and we’ll be working to speed it up.

Who the heck made this decision without seeking input from users?

Response: That would be me. And this is where you can comment and give me some feedback. I simply ask that you let things settle a bit and spend some time using the two new systems. Dial 3333, call a colleague. Try it. Spend some time in myPlymouth. This is and will continue to be where more and more information is stored.

We are committed to making these new systems work for you. Please understand that we cannot simply add new functions online without letting go of some old processes. That is and will continue to be my mantra.

That said, we will compile the feedback received this year and consolidate it into recommendations for next year's issue.

This is unfair to the trades people. They often don't have ready access to computers. They keep a print directory with them and use it often.

Response: That is why we created an alternative print copy. I know it’s an extra step to get and print it, but it’s there for you to get and place within your print version. Also, try the 3333 voice activated directory.

So that’s how this whole thing transpired. If you have comments or feedback, please let me know in here. Use the link for LEAVE A REPLY at the top and bottom of this page. We’re listening.

Finally, as with most evolutions in technology, we need to try and adapt. I simply ask that you give these new systems a try.

Thanks for reading.


Spam, it's getting worse again

Email…what a wonderful tool running amok. Much of our work today is based in email. When you find, however, that your inbox is cluttered with spam and unsolicited intrusions, you start to wonder if it’s all it’s cracked up to be.

Most of the mail on the internet today is spam. We protect you from most of it. Not all. You have tools at your disposal to block more. Unfortunately, the more you tighten your filters, the more good emails get caught in the nets. (sigh) Thus we are losing confidence in a communication means that used to be very reliable.

In spite of our approaches, new types of spam keep coming through. A year or so ago, we were dealing with multitudes of smut and offers to enlarge. We installed new software to filter that out. Then we had credit card and eBay scams, phishing ploys enticing us to update our accounts and offer up our access codes to financial data. Currently, we’re fending off stock deals, masked by randomly generated names and subject headings.

Consider this from a recent Computer World article:

Computer security analysts who fight spam face the same thankless task as goalkeepers: They don’t get much credit for the unsolicited e-mail they stop, only demerits for the ones that get through. But those few messages that wriggle past increasingly sophisticated filters constitute the greatest threats on the Internet. The sheer volume of spam threatens to bring the Internet to a crisis point. The amount of all e-mail traffic that is spam has recently risen to 85%, according to the Messaging Anti-Abuse Work Group in San Francisco….

Who knows the precise percentage, but those numbers are consistent with our experience.

Fighting spam is difficult in an academic environment. We value academic freedom and are committed to free exchange of ideas. Rarely do we block access to information, and only when it poses a threat to our network.

Yet if the spammers continue to have their way, they may force us to develop new strategies for communicating and messaging. It might mean that we change to another means of messaging. It almost certainly requires resources and ITS time and effort.

Set your own spam filter at This is a free service to the PSU community. Outlook users can also set a second filter under the Tools menu.

ITS will continue to keep pace with developments in the anti-spam industry. We know this is important to all of us.